Biting the Hand that Feeds You

A lioness takes the shade anywhere she can find it. Photograph: John McCutcheon

Southerners tend to be hospitable, gracious, and tough.  We don’t fail to recognize a lack of these qualities in others either.  The only other country I’ve visited whose citizens seem to be of the same ilk are the British.  I’ve been to Great Britian many times and I have never and I should capitalize the word never been treated rudely.  That leaves many countries where rudeness is the norm.  Citizens of other countries spot Americans as big, stupid, grinning buffoons. And I don’t like it.

As much as I love the magnificent wildlife of Kruger National Park, it became difficult during the first few days of our visit not to curse and lump all white South Africans as asses.  Our first few encounters with these whites were daunting.  Rude, smarty pants, hateful, can’t-wait-to-tell-you-off whites quickly forged an ugly mental picture.


I am here, along with thousands of other tourists, pouring lots of hard earned money into your economy.  Your infrastructure appears to be on the edge of collapse and yet tourist money is the best chance you have to save yourselves.

Your crime rate is staggering.  You live like rats behind walled electrified compounds.  You’re afraid to drive at night.  You’ve mistreated the natives until you expect to be exterminated at any moment.

It’s true we got in the wrong lane on a roundabout.  But to be cursed out for each and every little infraction the first couple of days we were in South Africa boiled my blood.  In another instance, an ill tempered South African cursed us simply because he wanted our viewing spot.

Luckily for us or the white South Africans, we finally got past the ugly ones and we were treated cordially and even helped by a fellow at a stop light who guided us to the correct road to the airport.

This is something I have to remember: not all people are exceptionally rude.  If it weren’t for the animals, though, South Africa would have seen the last of me.

One memorable sight, and I have to include this because we have such a good photograph was when we pulled up to a bunch of vehicles whose passengers were watching a pride of lions with kills.  Relaxing against a truck tire lay a grown lioness seeking relief in the shade of the truck. The white South African driver and his wife laughingly told us they had been stuck there for three hours while the beauty took her nap.  They had started their engine numerous times, but so far the lioness hadn’t budged.

At Berlin Falls we started a conversation with a couple who lived in southern South Africa and came north to their second home for long vacations.  When they left, they drove by a native posted at the gate entrance and gave him a plate of food.

Kindness is there.  But it helps to spread it around. A Lot. Or better yet, you belligerent white South Africans, come to the South.  We know how to smooth your ruffled feathers, calm your wrinkled brow, soften the rough tones of your voice, and charm you into thinking you’re the best thing to hit the South since cheese grits.


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